Mythos by Stephen Fry

Mythos is a modern digest of the Greek myths, including all the ones you’ve definitely heard before, as well as a bunch of others that are less well-known, but equally ridiculous. Stephen Fry has done all of the hard-work selecting, curating and updating the stories so it’s an absolute breeze to read. I’ll be honest, I have tried to read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which is a major source for the Greek myths, but I did not get very far. Now I find the reason I struggled with Ovid, is because, unlike Fry, he has not allowed the gods to refer to each other as “bro” or “dude” or “my homie” which honestly makes it all far more readable. Unfortunately Fry’s sweep of modernisation only covers language, rather than culture, more specifically rape cutlure, which is pretty prolific in Ancient Greek myth. It is certainly interesting to read these stories now, given that the Greek Myths are our cultural ancestors and still have a huge impact on how we view ourselves and society today. In fact, part of the reason why I picked the book was out of a feeling of cultural ineptitude: if you didn’t learn about the Greek Myths at boarding school, how else are you supposed to become Prime Minister? Turns out, all you have to know to become PM is that Zeus had a lot of sex with mortal and immortal women, most of which was non-consensual. Voila, one of our foundational stories about power!

If you are prepared to overlook the various power inequalities between men and women, the myths are fascinating and bonkers. You may know already that Zeus gives birth to Athena through his head, but did you know that she got there because Zeus ate her mum, Metis, when she was in the form of a fly – and she just stays there in his brain offering him wisdom? Did you know that Athena is not the only baby that Zeus gestates? When one of his lovers is dying of disease on a funeral pyre (this trauma is also caused by Zeus, but we agreed to overlook that…), he saves her unborn child by cutting out of her womb and placing it inside his thigh! No wonder Dionysus has a drinking problem when he grows up.

Actually reading the Greek myths (particularly through this modernised edition) goes some way to demystifying the stories. I mean, they are still largely bonkers, but they become bonkers stories that you know, rather than cultural relics paraded by a minority who went to private school.

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